Monday, 12 April 2010

Game 58 - Cardiff City v Leicester City Tuesday 30th March 2010 Coca Cola Championship

This was a re-arranged game from December when Cardiff's undersoil heating system was not working and meant that the frost put paid to the game. Never mind that we were already about 100 miles into the trip to Wales. The more cynical amongst the City support pointed to the injury list that Cardiff had at the time and when the heating system was miraculously working in time for their bumper holiday game the conspiracy theorists brought the story up again.
Anyway, after a few problems getting the match re-arranged the date was set and the tickets we had had since December had the cobwebs blown off them. Now as I don't like to make things too easy, we go to Cardiff via Leicester to pick up Helen, adding a few more miles to an already long trip for a night game. A fairly uneventful trip saw us arriving in Cardiff by 5.40pm and after we park up we head to Costa for nice coffee and something to eat. This means I will have now done 91 of the 92 after tonight, only Arsenal left now.

I'd been to Ninian Park on numerous occasions, most recently with City on Craig Levine's first appearance as Leicester manager, although he was on a watching brief that day. He must have wondered what he had let himself in for as I really have no idea how we came away with 0-0 draw, we were awful, but Cardiff's finishing was even worse! Back to tonight. We start to wander round the outside of the ground but this abruptly halted once we had entered the area outside the visitors section. Once in we could not go any further, so we headed inside. The concourse was very roomy and there were plenty of toilets etc. We found our seats which were on the back row. Good views and plenty of room for my legs. But some jobsworth steward then tells us we cannot stay here as they want to keep the back row clear. Why? And if you want to keep it clear, then don't sell me a ticket for the row then. Of course later Mr Jobsworth gives up doing this and City fans stay on the back row for the duration of the game.

As with most new grounds at this level, it is a smart looking stadium, with excellent views from everywhere. One problem I'd read about though, was the lack of cover for people sitting at the front of the stands when the weather was wet and this was clear to see tonight. The wind was very strong and during the game, even where we sat near the back, the rain was blown onto us.

True to his word, Paul turned up wearing his Santa Claus outfit, alluding to the original date the game should have been played, although a few people looked puzzled when they saw him. As for the game, well, we go on to lose 2-1 on a night we could have won. A controversial moment in the first half took me back a number of years. From a corner City look like they have scored but the ball is cleared and no goal is given even though from where we are sitting the ball looked over the line. Now many years ago I visited Ninian Park with Grimsby and we were stood behind the goal on the open terrace. A Cardiff corner was cleared to the halfway line and a Grimsby player took the ball into the other half, spotted the keeper off his line and had a shot. The keeper scrambles back to pull it back from over the line but we're celebrating like mad only to eventually realise that play is continuing and no goal has been given. Some things just don't change.

To cap a disappointing evening it takes over an hour to get back onto the M4, only to find it shut only a few miles down the road. The non existent diversion signs means we ended up lost very quickly. A long night gets even longer when we then reach the M69 turn off only to find out that it is blocked off! We finally roll in at 3am, totally knackered.

Many thanks to Helen for the photos.

Cardiff City 2-1 Leicester City
Att: 20,438
Admission: £25

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Game 57 - Kendal Town v Hucknall Town Saturday 27th March 2010 Unibond Premier League

The mad dash from Holker to Kendal saw us arrive at the Lakeland Radio Stadium at half time. Once we had parked the car, the problem was how to get into the ground. To my surprise the gates are open and as we get nearer I realise why. There is a portable food van in the car park which was serving fans from the game. We went in through the open gate into the ground. While Mrs Reynard avails herself of the facilities I speak to a couple of people nearby to find out the score at half time. But first I get some grief as it turns out one of these guys is the driver of the Hucknall bus and he's a Forest fan with a chip on his shoulder about Leicester. What a great start! I discover it's 1-1 and I then make my way to the table set up in the near stand where Kendal merchandise is on sale and buy a badge.
We make our way clockwise round the ground. The side we came in has a covered stand which only extends about a third of the way down the side.

A little way down this side are the dugouts and behind them is a 7-step terrace.

There is a wide hard standing single level behind the goal at this end.

The next side of the ground has two separate covered seated stands resplendent in the black and white colours of the Club.

The end where we came in is split between terracing and seats with the large Clubhouse behind.

We settled down to enjoy some football at last. The second half started entertainingly enough with both sides having chances. Kendal's winger, Carl Osman, was really shining and was causing Hucknall's defence plenty of problems. There was a big shout for a penalty when he was brought down, but much to the annoyance of the home crowd the referee gave nothing. The turning point of the game came on 63 minutes. After a bad challenge on Kendal's Wright, a mass confrontation involving most of the players from both sides flared up. After the referee restored order he gave a second yellow to O'Brien of Hucknall. All the pressure was now on the Hucknall goal and on 75 minutes Kendal took the lead when Wright fired home after a good run from Osman. Three minutes later it was 3-1 when Stopworth scored for the home side. To be honest it was all one way traffic now and how Kendal did not extend their lead I do not know.
The final whistle came to send the home crowd away happy with a convincing win in the end.
I'm glad we went to Kendal even if it meant we only saw 45 minutes of football. Its a really nice ground and worth the effort to visit.

More pictures of The Lakeland Stadium here.

Kendal Town 3-1 Hucknall Town
Att: 196
Badge: £3

Holker Old Boys v Oldham Borough Saturday 27th March 2010 Vodkat League Division One

The observant amongst you will have noticed that there is no game number for this entry. Why is that? I hear you ask. Well, thereby hangs a tale. After an interesting morning following the coast road to Barrow and a visit to The Dock Museum we made our way to Rakesmoor Lane, home of Holker Old Boys.

We go in and wander round the ground anti-clockwise. The Clubhouse, dressing rooms and dugouts are all on this side. There also looks like a covered area beyond the dugouts but when we get there, only the supports remain and there is no roof!

We reach the far end where there is only a one level standing area that runs behind the whole end.

There is a gateway half way down and this allows wayward balls to be brought back. This also gives you a view of the two pitches outside of the ground. On the far pitch there is a Holker juniors game taking place.

The side that runs along the pitch on the far side also has one level hard standing which runs the whole length of the pitch. It also has one of my favourite quirks of the season. There is a set of steps leading out of the ground, over the fence outside, giving you access to the field behind to retrieve the balls that end up there.

The sheep in the background did not like us much, took one look and had a massive pee! Must be a Derby fan. Anyway, we carry on undaunted to the other end. The hard standing behind the goal is a bit overgrown as you can see.

This end also has the seated stand that is sited at the corner of the end.

Here's another view.

Now to the reason why the legend "Game 57" does not adorn this entry. Not long after we got into the ground, one of Holker's officials tells us that the Oldham coach has broken down on the way to the ground and that they are waiting to see if they will make it. We get a coffee in the Clubhouse and wait for news. And wait. My list of alternative fixtures starts going through my head. As time moves on I start to have doubts the game will go ahead. Eventually another call is received from Oldham Boro, the recovery have still not arrived. I make the decision that we are going to leave, but where to? We could still make Barrow's game but I really do not fancy it, so we decide to hot tail it to Kendal. This means we will only see the second half but I'm happy with my choice. Not long after we get in the car and are on our way my phone goes. City have just gone 1-0 down to a bizarre own goal. The day just gets worse.

More pictures of Rakesmoor Lane here.

Homes of Football & Ambleside United

£60 to see City at Derby? No thanks. So we decide on a weekend away in the Lake District with a side helping of football. Holker Old Boys on Saturday is the game of choice but more on that later.
We arrive in Ambleside on Friday dinner just in time for the heavens to open and we decide that our visit to the Stuart Clarke's "Homes of Football" should be our first port of call.

Clarke has spent many years taking photographs of football and the gallery here has many of his best known works on display. You can buy postcards or prints of you favourites if you wish, but it is very interesting to see the full size versions of photos I have in one of his books or I've seen on the web.

Well worth a visit and there is an interview with Stuart Clarke on the European Football Weekends blog.
The rain eventually relents and we wander around Ambleside and of course I know that there is a football ground here, home of Ambleside United who play in the Westmoreland Football League and they currently lead Division One. We find the ground fairly easily.

As you can see, it is a fairly basic ground, with no floodlights and the only building is the changing room block, with dugouts on the opposite side and it is railed off all round the edge of the pitch.

We make our way to take a closer look and go through the fence ignoring the "Keep Out" notice. The changing room complex has a large sign on the side, revealing that the ground is called Hillard Park.

Wandering round to the front of the building reveals a plaque which says that the Clubhouse was officially opened in 1995 by Graham Kelly.

This must be one of the more idyllic settings for a football ground and I would imagine it makes for a pleasant day watching a game when the weather is nice.

We make our way back into the centre of Ambleside with my appetite wetted for Holker tomorrow.